GENEVA - The World Health Organization said it is encouraged by the apparent decline in the number of cases of the deadly coronavirus disease in China, but warned against complacency as the downward trend could change.
There is still time to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading widely around the world, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"WHO is doing everything we can to seize that window of opportunity, and we urge the international community to do the same," he said. "As I have said before, let us not squander the window of opportunity we have."
China has reported 74,675 cases to the WHO, including 2,121 deaths, but the number of cases and deaths from the disease outside China is relatively small. The latest reports put that number at 176 countries, including 7 deaths in 26 countries. In the past day, Iran has reported its first five cases and two deaths.
The WHO is coordinating the global response in fighting the COVID-19 disease, focusing its efforts on strengthening fragile health systems in developing countries to prevent the deadly virus from taking root.
"We are partnering with Africa CDC to coordinate our efforts to prepare African countries for the potential arrival of the virus," Tedros said. "That is where we believe, in Africa and other continents, where we have weaker health systems and the virus could be a serious danger."
The earlier that patients are tested and treated, the better the results, he said, adding that clinical trials of two drugs are under way and preliminary results should be available in three weeks.